StatkevichFranz Thönnes, a Member of the German Bundestag from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) parliamentary group, a former parliamentary state secretary and a member of the German Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, takes over a prisoner’s godparenthood for Nikolai Statkevich.

Franz Thönnes said:

“Nikolai Statkevich deserves immense respect and our solidarity for having stood as a presidential candidate and participated in the demonstrations following the rigged election of Alexander Lukashenko. Even faced with the possibility of a long prison sentence, he is continuing to fight in the courtroom for more democracy. By taking over a godparenthood I want to help to ensure that the President of Belarus cannot suppress the democratic movement in his country unnoticed. Now we must make clear that the world is watching events in Belarus very closely.”

The Prisoner’s Godparenthood campaign for the political prisoners in Belarus was initiated by human rights organisation Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights to support the prisoners and their relative. As a godparent Franz Thönnes will work towards Nikolai Statkevich’s release.

Nikolai Statkevich, a Social Democrat and presidential candidate, was detained by the KGB during a peaceful demonstration in the evening of 19 December 2010, the day of the presidential elections. Other presidential candidates, activists and journalists were also arrested. After being held for around five months in very harsh conditions and in solitary confinement, Statkevich is now at risk of being sentenced to up to 8 years in prison. The first photos of him (since December 2010) from the courtroom show him in relatively good health. However, he has lost a lot of weight and is suffering from eyesight and heart problems.

Belarusian and international human-rights organisations regard Nikolai Statkevich as a prisoner of conscience and are calling for his immediate and unconditional release.